Case Studies

Upgrade for North East Lincs CCTV

by Mark Rowe

North East Lincolnshire Council proposes to spend £1m to update its public space CCTV to an Internet Protocol (IP), digital system, as much of UK local government has done in recent years. Thus its reasonings are of a piece with many other districts, writes Mark Rowe.

A report to the council’s cabinet proposes ‘a substantial capital investment’ and ‘a new Public Space CCTV strategy’. Just as that strategy according to the report is based on the National CCTV Strategy of the Surveillance Camera Commissioner, so the need for an upgrade – and its timing – are similarly, for non-local reasons.

The council has moved after consultation that found near everyone who replied wanted cameras; and two-third (66 per cent) said that there were not enough cameras. Proposed as in many local government upgrades of cameras, from the 1990s-era analogue products in the original days of public space systems, is an IP system, linking Grimsby, Cleethorpes and the port town of Immingham. Given the strides in technology, the council will be able to use a network already in place, operating the traffic system, ‘to act as a resilient link for the CCTV, thereby reducing the risk of loss of camera operations’.

IP will also mean ‘reducing maintenance costs’; and keeping the old kit is not deemed an option, as the cameras as ‘analogue units relying on coaxial cable to microwave, fibre or wireless links’; and the recording and viewing software runs on Windows XP, no longer supported by Microsoft.

A new spend – of some £1,002,500 – means that the council can meet new issues, namely by buying ten ‘new Rapid Deployment Cameras (RDCs)’ to give ‘good coverage where needed. RDCs will be deployed based on requests supported by evidence and intelligence on crime and environmental crimes. The RDCs can be used to monitor parks and open spaces where there is an available power source and no issues with transmission.’ Likewise it’s proposed to fit ten tannoy speakers ‘placed in key town centre locations at fixed camera points’, to warn off those doing anti-social behaviour; or to support the emergency services to give messages during incidents, according to the report.

Also the council is looking at ‘a single software system which would be used by Highway and Environmental Enforcement’. It would give the option of a CCTV Vehicle, Highway Automatic Number Plate Recognition (ANPR) ready Rapid Deployment Cameras and fixed moving violation CCTV cameras. The CCTV control room would do all the monitoring; unlike many councils, North East Lincs has kept 24-7 monitoring. Its SIA-badged operators with contractor ENGIE Services also monitor fire and other alarms as an alarm receiving station; and have an Airwaves radio link with the Humberside Police control room.

The report, approved by councillors last month, sums up: “Whilst it is recognised that CCTV alone is not a single solution to reducing crime, environmental crime and anti-social behaviour, it does provide public re-assurance and should be utilised in partnership as one of a range of measures to address issues in our town centre, resort and local communities. This strategy and supporting capital investment provides a framework for delivering tangible outcomes to our local businesses and residents and provides real value for money …”

The reasons given for this ‘technical capital upgrade’ are interesting. Like others in local government, North East Lincs admits that putting a number on the gains from CCTV, whether income generation (such as more fines from fly-tippers caught or more in business rates from more prosperous, less crime-hit retailers) or savings are ‘hard to quantify or project’. However, the council does point to a rise in crime.

Partly, the upgrade is because the 20-plus-year-old system is old and going beyond repairing, which would look bad (‘negative reputational implications’); partly, because to decommission the CCTV as some councils have, as the report notes, would also look bad (‘negative publicity’) but besides because CCTV does do good – whether to tackle anti-social behaviour and fly-tipping (which can move, hence the proposed Rapid Deployment Cameras) or support local businesses, and reduce crime in the town of Grimsby and resort of Cleethorpes. An upgrade, then, while spending money, will as the report puts it see CCTV ‘used cost effectively and to its full advantage’.

Separately, the council has made a bid for £25m of central government money from the Future High Streets Fund to regenerate Grimsby town centre.

For the full report visit the North East Lincs website.

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